3D Printing — It’s Not Printing

It seems that every time that I turn around, I see an article or a news story about 3D Printing.  Yet, being ever the practical one, I question why a printing company/print service provider/marketing service provider should even be interested.

Yes, it’s called printing — but it’s not.  It’s a form of manufacturing — and not one of mass manufacturing, but of custom.  Yes, there are possible opportunities for some print providers — if they have a client base that plays in the world of point-of-purchase, but it’s a niche play at best for anyone who is a printer.

Which leads to the question, how are you going to find buyers of 3D printing — and the really big question — at what cost?  Can you make money (not just generate sales dollars) in 3D printing?  At this point, I’m saying, let’s go retro and look at letterpress printing – it has a better ROI.


3 thoughts on “3D Printing — It’s Not Printing

  1. Hi Joe! I just attended the RAPID conference hosted by SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) which was all about rapid manufacturing (a.k.a rapid prototyping or 3D printing.) Interesting stuff and true, where commercial printers fall in this space and if there’s any market for us is certainly unknown. The only vendor booth that seemed to have any printer-focused marketing effort was Mcor. I spoke with Conor MacCormack, CEO of Mcor and that company is bullish on the opportunities for printers. The Mcor press creates 3D objects from standard copier paper, which it forms by printing full color on each sheet, then laying down glue and the next sheet, thus building up 3D objects which are later cut out of the paper block. I have a bottle opener on my desk right now made out of this process – I saw these being printed, ganged at about 12 per “sheet block”. Yup, it’s a tchotchke, and the main opportunity seems to be in the promotional items area, but who knows. Staples in the UK have invested in this and there are pop-up stores for 3D objects all over the country. Printers with storefronts, the franchise folks, might just have the perfect infrastructure to take advantage of the “service bureau” segment of this business – providing prototypes for manufacturers or by offering custom 3D promotional items. It is certainly a space VERY different from what we’re used to – these presses measure output of individual pieces in minutes and when it comes to large items, hours. A far cry from the many pieces per minute that we’re used to. But some of those items go for lots of money too. In any event, I for one will continue to investigate the viability of 3D printing for the commercial print market – and I know a few printers who are investing in the technology, so I’ll let you know how it’s going for them down the road!

  2. For the benefit of the doubt, printing isn’t just about a point-of-purchase in the niche market.. It is about creativity of a certain company who wants to keep their business grow as well as helping others to keep their business at full potential in the near future.

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